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Originally published August 18, 2013 at 6:48 PM | Page modified August 18, 2013 at 10:35 PM

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Huskies hoping Travis Coons has easier workload this season

Coons handled punting, kickoffs, and field goals last season, but Washington has brought in some help for the senior this year.

Seattle Times staff reporter

Aug. 31

Boise State @ Washington, 7 p.m., FOX Sports 1

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Nothing against Travis Coons, but the Washington Huskies hope their triple-threat kicking dynamo makes fewer appearances this season.

Some players might hold a grudge if the coaching staff wanted to limit their time on the field, but Coons isn’t taking it personally.

“I guess they’re thinking less is more,” he said, laughing.

In his first year at UW last season, the transfer from Mount San Antonio College in Walnut, Calif., won the kicking duties and took over the punting job after three games to become the first Husky since 1987 to handle both responsibilities for most of the season.

Coons also took care of kickoffs, which made him the only player in the Pac-12 to do all three kicking jobs.

Looking back on 2012, he rubbed his stubbly chin and shook his head in amazement.

“After thinking about it, it’s really cool to think about I got the opportunity to do that,” he said grinning. “I thank the coaches for that. But that’s what I wanted to do coming out of JC (junior college).”

It may have been Coons’ plan, but the Huskies didn’t expect him to participate in 171 plays — 63 kickoffs, 54 punts, 39 PATs, 14 field-goal attempts and one fake punt. He booted the pigskin 5,863 yards, which is 3.3 miles.

“It took a toll,” special-teams coordinator Johnny Nansen said. “It’s a wear and tear on the kid.”

The heavy workload might explain why Coons had just 14 field-goal attempts last season — missing five – and none longer than 47 yards.

“It’s tiring more in practice because you get a lot more reps,” said Coons, who also had a game-winning 30-yard field goal with 1:20 left against Oregon State. “During games it’s not too bad. Toward the end of the season it gets tiring.”

However, he won’t use fatigue as an excuse to explain a botched 35-yard attempt in the last seconds of regulation against Washington State. The Huskies lost the Apple Cup 31-28 in overtime.

“It’s a little bit easier knowing I probably won’t have to do all three,” Coons said. “My leg will be a little bit more fresh in the season.”

During training camp, which ended last Friday, Washington reopened the competition at each kicking position.

In the spring, the Huskies brought in kicker Cameron Van Winkle, who set Washington state records at Mount Si High School for field goals made in a season (18) and career (39).

“He’s a great kicker,” Coons said. “He’s going to have a great career here. I just tell him, ‘You know what you’re doing. You made it this far. Just keep doing what you’re doing.’ ”

Zach Grossnickle is a third alternative. The 6-foot-2 senior transferred from Colorado, where he handled kickoffs last season. He graduated from CU and is taking graduate courses at UW, which makes him immediately eligible this season.

Given his experience with the Huskies and performances in spring practice and training camp, it appears that the field-goal kicking job is Coons’ to lose with Van Winkle handling kickoffs and Grossnickle as a reserve.

“We have a lot of information on those two (Coons and Van Winkle),” Nansen said. “We’re looking for consistency.”

The same is true of the expectations at punter between Coons and sophomore Korey Durkee, who had the job at the start of the 2012 season.

It was admittedly a difficult transition for Durkee, a former Gig Harbor standout who averaged 45.9 yards and had only six punts returned as a senior in high school.

“Coming into a D-I college, it’s big time, and I think I got a little nervous,” said Durkee, who averaged 36.9 yards on 16 punts last season. “I’ve been working on my consistency a lot and I’ve been improving since last year.”

Durkee changed his mechanics and adopted a two-step technique rather than three.

More important, he said, he is using visualization tools to help him relax. If he plays at renovated Husky Stadium or the cavernous 91,000-seat Rose Bowl, he imagines he’s home at Gig Harbor High.

“It’s the same football-field kind of style except there are trees in the background,” he said. “I try to visualize that and I’m hitting 80-yard bombs every single time.”

The competition with Coons, who averaged 39.8 yards on punts last season, is a virtual dead heat, Nansen said.

The Huskies had planned to make decisions on the kicking assignments after Saturday’s scrimmage.

“There’s certainly more competition this year than there was last year,” Coons said. “You hope the competition makes you better.”

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com

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